I’ve been watching The Smurfs my whole life. There’s just something that draws me in about a bunch of blue, pint-sized souls who see the world from a cheery perspective, even though they’re always the underdogs. It appealed to me as a kid, even as a college student flipping through the “retro” channels. And as an adult, and a parent, I find their “hangwithitness” and communal spirit to be characteristics I want my kids to be immersed in. So, going to see The Smurfs 2? Laugh if you want, but it was a no-brainer for me.
Of course, Peyo’s tiny animated characters got a 3D boost in 2011 with the introduction of live-action stunts and a human cast featuring Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, and Hank Azaria as Gargamel. This time out, the Smurfs return to New York City, and find themselves quickly in Paris, as Smurfette (Katy Perry) gets kidnapped by Gargamel’s two non-blue Smurf creations, Vexy (Christina Ricci) and Hackus (J. B. Smoove). They re-inlist the Winslows (Harris and Mays) and the unwanted stepfather (Brendan Gleason), trying to foil Gargamel’s plot to use the Smurf essence to control the world. Plot? Straightforward. Underlying theme? More complicated.
Smurfette has a re-occuring dream on her birthday about how she was really Gargamel’s creation to entrap the Smurfs but Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) used his love and potions to make her a “real Smurf.” Papa Smurf always tells her that it doesn’t matter where she came from, but Vexy tries to convince her that she’s “one of them,” that it’s okay to be naughty. Adults can see this is really a tug of war about nature versus nurture, and that there are some serious “adoption” issues playing out here between the world of the Smurfs and the real world interaction between the characters played by Harris and Gleason.
All of us want to know who we are and who loves us. Those are issues that shape our identity and our purpose, that give us a reason to get up in the morning and the belief system that we live with. In the end, Smurfette will ultimately prove her nature… and her nurture, and justify a “made in the image of God” argument that I saw coming a mile away as I watched. I’m sure the under six crowd (and most of the older crowd) wasn’t doing a theological study like I was as we watched, but it still made me recognize that my understanding of who we are (as humans) and what we are made for is pretty serious.
In Genesis, it says that God made everything, even men and women, and that he saw that it was good. Then Adam and Eve choose to disobey, committing sin, and are cast out of the Garden of Eden. More sin occurs with their children, and pretty soon, the Earth is in rough shape. But in a covenant with Noah, God says that he will never again destroy humanity, because he can see the good in Noah…. like Papa Smurf sees in Smurfette, even when it seems like all is lost. The “imago dei” is written on our souls, and God sees himself in what he made of us. We stumble, fall away, willfully disobey… and God still draws us back.
Not all of us are raised in homes of faith; not all of us even grow up being treated with love and respect. Still, God’s love pursues us, and asks to be honored in our lives. God thinks so much of us that he adopts us in, he “makes us real Smurfs,” even when we can’t see what it is that we’re supposed to be, by sending Jesus to die on the cross and grant us the opportunity to be restored to what we’re supposed to be in the first place.
Yes, I see all that in The Smurfs 2. Call me crazy, or just recognize that it’s pretty Smurfin’ amazing the places that God’s amazing love for us shows up.